|Famine, Needs-assessment and Survival Strategies in Africa (Oxfam, 1993, 40 p.)|
|3 Survival strategies and their 'costs'|
Large nurnbers of people are likely to be competing in low-status trades during times of famine. This phenomenon was described in some detail by de Waal in his study of famine in Darfur 1984-85. More recently, it has been noted in relation to petty trading in Port
Sudan, Red Sea Hills, in 1991. Survival strategies are not confined to rural people, and trading may be one of the most important strategies for urban or newly-urban people.
In situations of insecurity, trading is likely to be constrained. At the same time, there is the possibility of large margins on trading when risks are taken, as when people managed to move salt and soap to isolated parts of Mozambique.
The costs of trading as a survival strategy may be very significant. One of the biggest costs may be to the environment. During famine in Sudan in 1984-85, de Waal writes, 'hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur were dependent on the destruction of trees for earning an income.' This pattern has continued in more recent crisis years. In 1991, an increasing number of households in Kebkabiya area council, Darfur, Sudan, were involved in the sale of firewood. In Eritrea, impoverishment arising from the civil war has led to widespread resort to marginal economic activities like selling firewood and selling the leaves of doum palms (used for making mats). These strategies have tended to degrade the environment. Widespread trading in firewood and charcoal has also caused environmental daInage around urban areas of Angola and in the central highlands. Environmental damage around the towns has also been caused by repeated planting of the same crop, in contrast to slash-and-burn techniques more traditionally used. Similar problems have been observed in Mozambique.